Andrew is a news editor. - ed.
Well, this is weird. This time last year I was having problems sleeping, talking to my doctor about going on medication for my anxiety and depression and feeling altogether gnarly about virtually everything. This year, I'm writing a best of list for a site I've been reading since I was 15 years old, as part of the new wave of staff who joined in the autumn of 2011.
On the topic of the whole depression thing, the records I connected with this year reflected that a lot, and I didn't dig into quite as many as I'd have liked. For a good chunk of 2011 I was in a right old state, having regular panic attacks, avoiding social situations, doing the old fashioned bed-cry and all the other fun stuff a 25-year-old struggling with new and shiny mental health disorders is prone to do. When my mood was down, I tended to return to older, more comfortable records, where I knew exactly what I was getting, or I worked out till I could barely more, to an even mix of Sick of It All, Alexandra Burke and Nicki Minaj.
It's through exercise (cardiovascular is best, mostly running) that I get my depression and anxiety under control. Family and friends help too. Another huge thing has been the self esteem boost I've gotten from working on Punknews. The staff really are a lovely group of people, and I'm enormously grateful that they thought enough of my other thing, I Live Sweat, to invite me to join their ranks.
Mostly I'm happy to have stuff on my CV that doesn't pertain to DJing, washing pots, delivering newspapers or collecting social science degrees.
To borrow a slogan from the LGBT community, with mental health stuff, if you get help from the people around you, and your doctor, it gets better. 2011 was the year it got better.
You lot better crack some jokes in the comments, because this has been altogether too bloody sincere by half.
It's difficult to offer anything other than a wholly subjective view of this record for a couple of reasons. In the first place, as I've said, I'm an Alkaline Trio fan of some 10 years now, and so what I find in the work of an artist I've been following for that length of time is almost certainly coloured by that depth of context. In the second place, I've been dealing with mental health issues lately, specifically depression and anxiety, and while depression and it's related themes have been influential in Dan's work for many years, they seem a lot more pronounced on this record. Maybe that's me picking things out more since my diagnosis, but either way, this was a tough album for me to get into. That's not a comment on the quality of the work, but rather a comment on my state of mind at the time. As I got a better handle on my depression, I got a better handle on the album, and rather than being brought down further by the themes presented within, I began to take comfort in the fact that one of my favorite musicians was writing about the thing I'd been struggling with for months. If there's a point to any of this; music, I mean; it's got to be in it's capacity to communicate that which is often difficult to express fully, and Hurricane Season accomplishes that lofty aim with apparent ease. It's a richly rewarding portrait of an accomplished songwriter at the top of his game, but it should be approached in the right way, particularly if you're struggling with similar feelings yourself.
This album isn't particularly experimental, but it does what it does extremely well, and what it does is deliver melodic pop-punk, the kind that invites impromptu singalongs and huge grins, like nothing else this year. Simply put, this album is a good buzz, and short of a six mile run or half-an-hour pounding a heavy bag, there's nothing to beat it for getting your eyes bright and your emotional seesaw weighted on the posi-as-owt side. Get stoked.
David Comes To Life is a sprawling monster of a concept record, whilst also being a driving and kinetic punk rock tour de force. On the surface, its narrative is fairly straightforward, until about halfway through, when it becomes apparent just how meta it is, and just how much Fucked Up are intent on forcing the listener to think. Like other great works of fiction where meta-narrative holds sway, the album rewards your attention, and will continue to do so the more you return to it. Proof, if proof were needed, that you can produce a progressive work without it sounding proggy, or shoving your head up your arse. The thinking person's choice.
The Hotel Year: It Never Goes Out
A soaring pop-punk record that somehow manages to turn a Smiths reference in the final track into my favorite gang vocal of the year. Emotive without being sappy, and a whole lot of fun. It's okay for albums to just be fun, right? In all seriousness, the gang vocals on this album are the radness, at least to my Irn Bru-addled mind.
Covering Ground isn't a huge departure from the musical styles of Feast Or Famine or Gold Country, and that's no bad thing. It's no secret that Chuck is a gifted songwriter and musician, and his solo work continues to show us a man with everything to say, but nothing to prove. That Chuck seems so comfortable in his work, speaking for myself, allows me to listen to his work in comfort, even when that work deals with uncomfortable things. This year I've come back to this album again and again, on those nights when I'm feeling rough, and there's nobody on hand who can talk to me. When nobody is around to listen, I listen to Chuck, and it's like getting understanding and advice from a true friend. Magnificent.